Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Locals say syringe handouts draw criminals

Locals say syringe handouts draw criminals

Locals say syringe handouts draw criminals

A CENTRE for intravenous drug users has boosted local criminal activity and left people living in fear, some Phnom Penh residents say.

Residents of Psar Deumtkov commune in Chamkarmon district asked at a public forum held last Friday that the centre be moved out of their neighbourhood.

The meeting, held at the office of the Cambodian Journalists’ Club, allowed community residents to speak directly with representatives of Korsang, the NGO that runs the centre.

The residents complained the influx of drug users into their commune had increased crime and diminished safety. Since it opened in 2004, the Korsang centre has distributed free syringes to drug users and educated them about safer drug use in order to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.

Thong Chhornu, Psar Deumtkov commune chief, said he had received many reports of homes being broken into and valuables stolen. He believed the perpetrators were drug users drawn to the commune by the Korsang centre.

“Those drug users from Korsang cause disorder in the commune,” he said.

Yong Meng, 72, said that in addition to raising crime, the presence of drug users in the commune made residents feel less safe. “They gather in groups at night to inject drugs, so people here are afraid to travel at night. They even defecate everywhere. We’re not safe here.”

Kab Vannda of the Korsang organisation explained at the forum that the needle programme, rather than encouraging drug use, had the opposite effect.

“Our organisation works with addicts to help them stop using drugs. Before they receive clean needles, users are educated on the dangers of drugs and the importance of going for a blood test,” he said.

“We want to cooperate with the authorities in order to maintain safety and public order in the area. Our goal is to free this community from addiction.”

Chamkarmon Deputy Governor Prum Sakhan, however, said the authorities stood by residents’ claims. “Korsang helps the government fight drug use, but their drop-in policy is irresponsible.”